keepers of knowledge
Since ancient times, Monks have always functioned as keepers of knowledge. The English word “wicca”, or the Thai word “wicha”, which have become common parlance for describing the esoteric arts, were first derived from ancient Sanskrit word “visha”. In Pali, the word manifests as the phonetically-similar “vijja”. In Therevada Buddhism, a gatha called “Buddha Vandana”, which is often recited to pay homage to the Buddha, contains the phrase “Vijja-Carana Sampanno”. “Vijja”, meaning Knowledge, and “Carana”, meaning Action or Conduct are described in the phrase as “Sampanno”, or “Perfect”. This translates as the Buddha having achieved perfection in both wisdom and practice.
From the 5th to 12th century, records detailing knowledge such as medicine, psychology, astronomy, city planning, as well as exoteric and esoteric texts dealing with magical arts like divination and sorcery, were kept in the Nalanda Mahavira. It was the world’s earliest iteration of a University, founded in the 5th century.
This is the famed repository of information that drove Xuan Zang to travel tens of thousands of miles from Tang Dynasty China to India, in pursuit of Buddhist knowledge. It is also here where he met Silabhdra, and studied the Yogacarabhumishastra, later returning to China with a host of Mahayana teachings. Over the centuries, knowledge was spread by these Buddhist monks to every corner of the globe. The knowledge was passed down from Master to Disciple, and a plethora of schools and traditions evolved throughout the years. Today, archaeological expeditions as far away as Malaysia and Indonesia are still continuing to unearth new evidence of the influence of Mahayana cultures in the area.
In the 8th century, Padmasambhava travelled to Tibet at the invitation of a King. The Tibet of that time was steeped in folk religion, and it was said that practitioners of such beliefs dabbled in the occult, spreading fear, terror and misery amongst the populace. In order to spread Buddhism, Padmasambhava had to subdue these terrible forces and assimilate their deities into Buddhism as protectors. In ancient Vajrayana records, the Buddhist saint Milerapa, was said to have unleashed horrible curses upon villagers prior to becoming a disciple of Marpa, who put him through arduous training to purify his sins, before Milarepa could learn Buddhist teachings and become enlightened.
In every corner of the world, and throughout ages past, legends have been told of Monks who were able to enter a deep, unshakably tranquil state of mind called Jhana. Monks who were able to reach this state had a true grasp of reality and were able to clearly see what the Buddha had taught. They saw that all corporeal reality was composed of only 4 constituent elements; air, fire, earth and water. Witnessing the ebb and flow of time and space in their meditation practice, they were even able to recognize and control their moment of death. Monks who were truly able to recognize existence at this magnitude were able to bend reality and create miracles. They were also able to attain different levels of enlightenment through accessing the Ariya Jhana, vastly more powerful than the ordinary variety, developing their insight to the point where they could defy the cycle of birth, death and rebirth itself.
Though the Buddha discouraged his disciples from the trivial pursuit of these extraordinary abilities, the sutras told of many instances where he and his disciples displayed such powers. Out of compassion, for the benefit of others. One such example was when the Buddha first met Angulimala, and subsequently caused the latter to give up murder, and embark on a path of self-liberation. The sutras also recorded many other extraordinary feats performed by Moggallana during the Buddha’s time, as well those of Upagupta, who was born several centuries after the Buddha.
This category will tell the stories of Monks throughout the ages, who pierced the veil of reality and performing such miracles.